Dutch set to ease lockdown despite high COVID-19 infection rates…

Reuters . Tue, April 20, 2021, 11:53 AM
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Lockdown measures in the Netherlands are expected to be eased from next week as pressure to reopen society mounts despite still-high coronavirus infection rates, Dutch broadcasters reported on Tuesday.

A nationwide nighttime curfew that has been in place for three months will be lifted on April 28, broadcasters NOS and RTL said, citing government sources. Bars and restaurants will be allowed to gradually reopen next week.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte is set to announce the measures at a news conference planned for Tuesday at 1900 CET (1700 GMT).

The Netherlands has been in varying stages of lockdown for more than six months, as all bars and restaurants have been closed since mid-October and public gatherings of more than two people are banned.

Despite these measures, coronavirus infections and the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital wards and intensive care units have climbed to their highest levels since January in recent weeks.

Only last week Rutte cited rising COVID-19 infection rates and hospitals working at near capacity as reasons to extend pandemic measures until at least April 28.

But the national hospital association on Monday indicated that the worst of the third wave of infections might be over as the number of new patients admitted fell slightly in the past week and coronavirus vaccinations among the elderly are gathering steam.

As of Tuesday, around 4.5 million vaccinations are estimated to have been given in the country of 17 million, with around 750,000 more injections expected this week.

Opinion polls have shown support for lockdown measures is waning, and hospitality associations and mayors from major cities have argued that the ban on outdoor dining spaces should be removed immediately, citing large numbers of people gathering in parks.

Since the start of the pandemic more than 1.4 million coronavirus infections have been confirmed in the Netherlands, with more than 20,000 deaths.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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